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Turkey

Rail Trip Commemorates 50 Years of Turkish 'Guest Workers' in Germany

The first gastarbeiter (guest workers) from Turkey came to Munich from Istanbul in 1961. Some of them took part in the recent 50th anniversary trip celebrating the bilateral recruitment agreement—and looked back to often painful memories.

Sirkeci Station, Istanbul, Turkey (jwalsh)
Sirkeci Station, Istanbul, Turkey (jwalsh)
Roland Preuss and Björn Finke

MUNICH/ISTANBUL -- The guest workers end up having to wait: fitting symbolism for this particular chapter in the history of relations between Germany and Turkey. At just past noon, the 10-car train starts to move out of the station. Television cameras are covering the event live. The director general of TRT, the state-owned Turkish station, waves from the door. After Ibrahim Sahin has presented himself to viewers, the train stops, then rolls back into Istanbul's Sirkeci station. Only now can the real guest workers board: 34 Turkish workers who migrated to Germany between 40 and 50 years ago, and are now reliving that train journey to Munich.

The men and women climb into the cars without a murmur of complaint. If they're used to anything, it's waiting: for their next permit, for their next trip back home, for some recognition of all the work they've done. They're going to need some more of that patience on this trip. The train goes via Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Austria before reaching Munich. These men and women – now retired – are retracing the same route of the historic trains full of guest workers, when the journey took 50 hours and they had to sit on hard wooden seats. On arrival in Munich, the workers were dispatched to various parts of Germany. The arrival at Munich's main station this past Sunday was the symbolic highpoint of the celebration: 50 years to the day of the recruitment agreement signed between Germany and Turkey.

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Geopolitics

Our 'Emotional' Divide: How The Ukraine War Reveals A World Broken In Two

Russia's invasion has created a stark global divide: them and us. On one side are the countries refusing to condemn Moscow, with the West on the other. It's a dangerous split that could have repercussions far into the future.

Protesters against the war in Ukraine demonstrate in front of the Russian embassy in London

Dominique Moïsi

-Analysis-

PARIS — "The West and the Rest of Us." That's the title of a 1975 essay written by Nigerian essayist and critic Chinweizu Ibekwe. I've been thinking about his words as the war in Ukraine both reveals and accelerates divisions of the world that I believe are ultimately "emotional" in nature.

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With war returning to Europe and the risk of escalation, there is a gap between the Western view and that of the "others," a distinct "us and them." This gap cannot be explained in strictly geographical, political, and economic terms.

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